The Crotchetiest Old Man

by Chad Carpenter

When I grow up, and I grow old, I know I’ll end up a crotchety old man, but by then I'll have been doing things half-heartedly for decades, so I'll aim to change my ways, and strive to do things better before I die, making it my goal, therefore, to become the best, most crotchetiest old man ever, no more half-heartedness for me, thank you very kindly.

In my early attempts, I will start small by annoying family members, so anytime someone speaks to me (or speaks at all for that matter), I'll cup my hand to my ear, lean forward, and say "Ehhh?" and I won't give up until they repeat themselves at least three times, and eventually no one will say anything at all while I'm in the room, and in the awkward quiet, I'll hack up greenish phlegm into my hand and wipe it on the furniture if someone doesn’t race over quickly enough with a tissue, and in the deepest of those uncomfortable silences, I'll let loose sad little farts which no one will dare acknowledge, and when they start leaving me in a room by myself, I'll use my social security check to by a Rascal scooter so I can follow them around the house, all the while bumping into furniture and running over pets.

After eventually being kicked out of every relative's house, they'll all chip in to buy me my own place, but I won't agree to any house or retirement home they pick out because I'll have my own ideas of workmanship and what a house ought to be and how they don't build them like they use to, so we'll search unsuccessfully for months, and eventually they'll agree to let me design and build my own house because it'll at least give me something to do away from them, and then I can berate the contractors, builders, plumbers, and other no-good, lazy bums when they don't precisely follow my napkin-scrawled blueprints and slurred, inane requests or when they try to take a break on my time, how dare they, do they think I'm paying them to sit around and watch me install my own shower railings and sun room with screened windows whose glass panes come out in the summer but are so heavy that I need someone to come over and take them down for me, very carefully, mind you.

Once in my own house, I'll settle down, having been smart enough to build the walls paper-thin so I can press my ear to a glass and that glass to the door so I can hear every sound coming from every neighbor on the street, and if I hear any music or shouting after 8:00 PM, I'll call the cops and scream bloody noise violation, and when the neighbors throw a party and turn up what sounds to me like a giant stereo and concert-venue speaker system, I'll hobble quietly over and bash all the guests' windshields in with my wooden cane, and when the damage is discovered, I'll use their distraction as cover for me to sneak in and wheel out their giant concert speakers on my Rascal so I can loudly play obnoxious old-person music in my kitchen when I wake up at 5:30 am on the weekends.

My house will be built on the biggest, most unavoidable lot in the neighborhood, and I'll build forts and tree houses on the front lawn and plant lollipops in my garden, and then I'll sit in my creaky rocking chair and peer out the front window ready to catch any kids trespassing, and when I see them step foot on my property I'll scream at them to "Get off my lawn you little twerps!" but I'll yell into a megaphone attached to a microphone which feeds into  the biggest amp I can afford which feeds into the second biggest amp I can afford which feeds into the giant concert-venue speakers I stole from my music-playing neighbors, and the kids will scatter, but I'll run out and call them back, give them a lollipop, and when I've got them convinced I'm not such a bad old geezer, I'll regale them with long-winded stories from my childhood, though I'll pause after every few sentences, trying to remember where I was going with the story, and when I've paused long enough that they look ready to beg off with some excuse, I'll continue the story with renewed vigor as if I was just about to get to my point, but of course there would be no point, and that is the point, because those kids will never come near my property again, even though it's by far the quickest way for them to get home from school, a luxury I never had back when I had to walk naked through miles of frozen tundra every day at the age of three just to get to work at a shoe factory where I could only dream of someday co-owning a pair of shoes with my twenty-five brothers and sisters who I was also responsible for because my dad was a drunk and my mom had polio, god rest her soul, though in actuality my life has been quite nice, this kind of story teaches character and shows kids how good they have it, don't you know?

And in the very end, when I’ve alienated everyone I know and am laying alone on my deathbed, I’ll think back on my life and how miserable I was and wonder if I’d wasted all my years, but then I’ll realize I’m too old to go changing anything now, so I’ll hammer on my buzzer to let the nurse know I need wiping again and if she intends to speak in my presence, could she bring something for the headache caused by her annoyingly perky voice, and when I’ve hung in just long enough to hear all the happiness and hope drain from that voice as it says, “I have had it with you Mr. Carpenter, you are the most vile, impolite, meanest, and…” then I’ll cut her off and say, with my last, dying breath “crotchetiest old man ever?”

I can’t wait.